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Life all comes down to a few moments. This is one of them.

-Bud Fox, in “Wall Street”

 

It happens when you’re trying to go to sleep, or cooking spaghetti noodles or staring out the window. When you remember some remark your boss made, or that snooty woman at the bank.

Then it comes to you. The perfect answer, the thing you should've said. The thing you wish you could’ve thought of in the moment.

Now the moment’s gone, and sometimes it’s a question you should’ve asked but didn’t. There was a moment for that, too. Once it’s gone, the moon and stars will never quite align that way again.

I had such a moment in Memphis, TN, the city from which I hail. Specifically, at the Western Steakhouse Restaurant and Lounge, which was everything a name like that implies.

It’s long gone now, but the restaurant had been around since the early ‘50s; it was Elvis’ favorite steakhouse, if that tells you anything. In 1995, when I was there, the Western Steakhouse was as it had always been, a dimly lit, smoke-filled, walk-up of a place.

You actually had to walk up, the place was upstairs, in all its black paneled, imitation red leather glory. It was “Goodfellas” meets “Smokey and the Bandit”, the sort of place Memphis mafioso took their wives on Friday night and their girlfriends on Saturday.

I was there with Phillip, on a Thursday. We met through a mutual friend and I was completely smitten. For days I had imagined all the witty, clever things I would say.

Instead it was a disaster, even as first dates go. Phillip and I were the only people there, and to call the conversation “sparse” would be spotting it some points.

The night was like a barefoot walk in broken glass. Somehow I got through it.

Before we left, Phillip excused himself to go to the restroom, or possibly to look for a backstairs exit.

A couple of waitresses were chatting about customers and such; one of them said:

“Remember what happened that time Jack Ruby was here?”

They laughed, and Phillip came out of the restroom, nodding toward the door.

The waitresses disappeared into the kitchen.

Moments come and go, and they take the answers with them; they leave you there with half a Jack Ruby story.

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